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Our Past Melts
September 22, 2010

For those of us who like round numbers, this seems to be the week.

The value of silver in 90-percent U.S. silver coins is now 15 times face value. OK, OK, at today’s $21.07 an ounce, it is really 15.065 times face value, but 15 is close enough for me.

Gold has just about reached $1,300. Many people will find that the figure is a very nice round number.

With all of the attention being paid to bullion, it probably is not surprising that it is on the minds of collectors.

I talked to Clifford Mishler, president of the American Numismatic Association this week. He had just returned from the Virginia Numismatic Association show where he had given a talk.

One of the attendees asked him what he was going to do about collector coins going into the melting pot because numismatic premiums have not kept up with bullion values.

What could the ANA do even if it wanted to do something?

The fact that coins are trading for their metallic value is a strong indication that there are not enough collectors to absorb the supply.

What’s wrong with circulated common silver coins disappearing?

The issue of melting was one raised in 1980, the last time this phenomenon occurred on a large scale.

There was some hand wringing at the time by hobbyists, but in the 30 years that followed, no surprise rarities turned up as a result of the melting. In fact, none of the relative rarities of silver coins changed at all as a result.

Melting might make us cringe a little, but to use a hunting metaphor, perhaps it is simply culling the herd, which is a healthy thing.

Or perhaps collectors in 2050 will only have the 1932-D and 1932-S Washington quarters to collect.

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About the Author
David C. Harper has been a coin collector since 1963. He joined the Krause Publications editorial staff in 1978 and is currently editor of Numismatic News and World Coin News. He also edits two books annually, North American Coins & Prices and Coin Digest. He is the author of the Class of '63 column that runs each week in Numismatic News. His first bylined numismatic article appeared in the June 1971 issue of Coins Magazine and his various Krause Publications assignments included a stint as editor of the magazine 1980-1983. Harper received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1977. He had a double major of journalism and economics.

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